Dear Editor: Please print this open letter to our state representatives, Mr. Greg Albritton and Mr. Russell Bedsole:
I’m writing to ask you to reconsider involvement with CoreCivic, in terms of any interest they may have in constructing or renovating any state correctional facilities. Through the failure of Governor Ivey and ADOC’s misguided and secretive plan to lease three mega-prisons, many ordinary Alabamians are now aware of the issues with private prisons, and they do not want to have their influence in our state. Nearly all of the folks that I have spoken to in Brierfield and Central Alabama are in favor of criminal justice reform, renovation of existing facilities, and a top-to-bottom review of ADOC; no one has considered privatization as a good solution. Those who are in favor of prison privatization only seem to be the ones that have potential to gain from it, either financially, or in terms of influence.
Legislative and Alabama Department of Corrections leaders met Thursday for the third time in less than a month to discuss options. Another meeting is scheduled for next week, Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range, told Alabama Daily News.
Albritton, at the table because he’s chairman of the Senate General Fund Budget committee, said the meeting included ADOC Commissioner Jeff Dunn. Albritton said CoreCivic, the company whose plans to build two large prisons and lease them to the state fell apart in June when underwriters backed out, is still part of discussions.
“They’ve responded to every question we’ve asked them. They brought data,” Albritton said.
Alabama Daily News first reported that some lawmakers want to consider using some of the state’s money under the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan relief money to build or improve prisons. State government’s Rescue Plan funding includes $2.1 billion earmarked for state relief and $192 million for state capital projects fund.
Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, is on the House Judiciary Committee and said Thursday evening he thinks House members are ready to take action, especially because the state came so close to the lease plan that many didn’t like.
“If they had any sense politically, doing something about (prisons) would be a good move in an election year,” Ball, who is not seeking reelection, said. “Getting a win.”
Albritton said lawmakers need to take action.
“We’ve put this off long enough, we need to resolve this, even if we can’t turn dirt right now,” he said. “We’ve got to stop kicking this down the road, we have to stop looking for excuses, and we have to deal with it. And I think at least from the Senate side, there’s agreement, there’s a willingness to address this.”
“I think we’ll be unsure of a special session until we are relatively certain of a plan and also where the House is on this,” Albritton said.